Ignalina is like a small and cosy island surrounded by woods and waters. It takes pride in nine lakes named Gavys, Gavaitis, Ilgis, Šiekštys, Mekšrinis, Paplovinis, Palaukinis, Agarinis, and Gulbinis. This resort town creates the right mindset for peace and recreation and is perfectly located for starting and developing sanatorium care along with the tourist, entertainment and health promotion businesses.
Ignalina is packed with exciting options for leisure whatever the season thanks to a recreation and entertainment centre, a modern stadium, tennis courts and sporting grounds. Locals have their favourite spots to recreate and take walks, for instance, small pinewoods patterned with sanded paths, urban beach areas on the banks of Gavys and Ilgis lakes, Freedom Square, and the pedestrian bridge over Paplovinis Lake with a fountain sprinkling in the summertime. The future vision of Ignalina is a resort and a properly developed site for recreation and entertainment suited for convenient living and exciting activity. The young town looks forward to the opportunities in store and has many good hopes for the future.
The origin of the name "Ignalina” is explained very romantically in a legend. It tells us about an unhappy love of Lina, daughter of duke Budrys, and Ignas, captive of the crusaders, that people cursed and drowned in Ilgis Lake.
People say their love is immortal and gushes from the slope of the lake as a crystal spring, called the tears of Lina. When a small town appeared between the handsome lakes and hills, people gave it the name of Ignalina to perpetuate the remarkable love of Ignas and Lina. In 1993, a wooden sculpture was set up for Ignas and Lina on Mokyklos Street to symbolize the legend and the origin of the name of Ignalina (author Gintaras Černius).
The first settlements in the area where Ignalina was founded and where it exists now are believed to date back to the period from the ninth to the twelfth century. Written historic records first refer to the place name Ignalina in 1810, but given the fact that Lithuania has more than one settlement with that name, it has been unknown to date which one of those was mentioned. The name of Ignalina town most likely derives from the name of feudalist Ignas Tyzenhauzas, who bought the former settlements (Ignalina and Vašiva folwarks and Budriai and Vilkakalnis villages) and created an Ignalina Folwark, which then belonged to Vidiškės Estate. In principle, the history of Ignalina starts when after the reconstruction of the St Petersburg – Warsaw railway line in 1862 a wooden railway station was built eastwards to the Ignalina Folwark. Based on available records, in 1866, 85 people lived next to the station, nine of them Jewish. A police headquarters was built that year followed by an inn and a shop (the history of the town counts from then). The chief of the railway station, telegraph staff, an engineer, a road builder and clerks came from Russia to live and work in Ignalina. The railway played an important role for the growth of the settlement and improved communication with Vilnius and Daugavpils.
In the early nineteenth century Ignalina became a town. Year 1906 saw the founding of its first school. After World War I the town was in the area occupied by Poles. Year 1950 saw the creation of Ignalina District, which was a great stimulus for the town to grow. A network of administrative institutions and enterprises was developed.
The interesting thing about Ignalina is that apart from just a few other Lithuanian towns it was planned according to the so-called Russian town square model, like Kaunas and Rūdiškės. These are quadrangular squares with four streets approaching from different sides. Ignalina's current Freedom Square has retained its old shape. Although the town has no architecturally protected buildings, the individual sections representing the old development on Laisvės, Smėlio and Vasario 16-osios streets are under preservation. The water tower standing next to the railway station is significant from the historic point of view. It was set up in 1872 during construction of the Warsaw – St Petersburg railway line and was designed for refilling locomotives with water. It is the oldest building in Ignalina.
Today Ignalina is home about 6.000 inhabitants. It the last few years it has seen many developments leading to its lovelier appearance. Buildings housing the principal institutions have been renovated, streets and sidewalks are undergoing rearrangement and the town now offers new sites for sports and entertainment. Ignalina often hosts different sport competitions and cycling championships. Lovers of winter entertainment are lured by the Lithuanian Centre for Winter Sports. Locals and visitors to Ignalina are brought together by traditional festivals including the opening and closing of the summer season, the biannual festival "The Pool of Lakes", spring and autumn fairs, etc.
Ignalina people love their town and believe in its promising future.